A Coach on Being Coached

by | Jan 29, 2023

Categories: Mindset

I’ve been a professional fitness coach for over 11 years now, yet, for the first time ever I invested in a coach for myself. I chose Andrew Coates as my online fitness coach. Doing so has lead to some interesting discoveries and it is here that I will share the major ones with you.

Discovery #1- Trap Bar Farmer’s Carries Suck

The first major thing I’ve noticed about a coach having a coach is the level of suck that can happen when you no longer do whatever you want. There is a plan. There is a way forward. This plan is no longer of your choosing. It’s out of your hands. It’s your turn to trust another professional in the same way you’ve asked hundreds to trust you over the years. A good coach can see needs and weaknesses that I myself am incapable of seeing. Thus where the trap bar farmer’s carries come in.

Week in/week out, every Wednesday feeling like my arms are going to be wrenched directly out of the sockets, my traps and forearms on fire, when I finally, mercifully, get to put the bar down (more like throw it and kick it), having done my prescribed 150 feet of distance with it, it takes 10 seconds for my chalk covered hands to unfurl, the whole time wondering if these trap bar carries were my last due to the inability to use my arms ever again. Sure enough every time, with a little bit of patience, the feeling comes back into my arms and fingers and I’m able to move them and by mid-afternoon I’m almost back to full function.

Here’s the thing. I need to do these things. They are making me strong in a way I need most. They are my ally though it feels they are out to kill me. On my own, I would maybe do them once every 3 months (or years) and call it good. Now they are in the program, every Wednesday, without mercy. I hope against hope each time that they’ll be gone when I open the True Coach app, only to have them staring me in the face and laughing at me in their sadistic way. I have no choice, I must press on, I must give my best. There’s no getting out of it as I must have video proof for my coach. As I slowly use my near lifeless fingers and let my coach know I got them done with the weight he prescribed (last set nearly 1.5x my current bodyweight) I reset the cycle of thinking, “maybe they’ll be gone next week”, which brings me to my next point.

Discovery #2- A Good Fitness Coach Knows the Value of Repetition

I’m into month three with Andrew as my coach. This guy knows I’ve been around the block in fitness. This is not my first rodeo (pronounced Ro-DAY-oh for effect). I first picked up the weights when I was 13 years old. That’s 25 years ago. I became a fitness professional myself 11 years ago. I’ve competed in and won natural bodybuilding shows. This stuff is kinda my jam. So obviously he’s gonna pull out all stops and have me hanging from gravity boots a la’ the Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia that I poured over 100’s of times as my teenaged self, right? Wrong.

He hit me with the basics. On top of that, the program exercises haven’t changed. Not once in over 3 months. “But what about muscle confusion!?”, “When do we get to do this crazy exercise I just saw on Insta!?” or at least, “When do we drop the farmer’s carries for crying out loud!?” Nope, not questions he’ll be getting from me (minus the farmer carry one).

A great fitness coach knows the power of results rest in repetition. And not just any repetition, but repetition of the basics. My program has TRX rows in it. I mean, come on, right? TRX rows are my go to modification, my “new person 101” exercise. Surely a super experienced, lifelong fitness enthusiast like myself deserves more, right? Wrong.

Resistance training is a game where 2+2=4 is the most advanced formula you need for what we’re all seeking, namely, results. Too many make the mistake of jumping to advanced calculus to their demise. The usual culprits are injury or discouragement through lack of consistency, not sticking with exercises or a plan long enough to actually improve.

There is another word for improvement in the fitness world, results. TRX rows done to the right level of intensity for the individual are always going to work. As are basic versions of a squat, chin-ups, flat dumbbell bench press and the like. A good and experienced fitness coach doesn’t try and impress you with their library of random exercises they have you do but rather is relentless with their stick-to-it-ivness of the basics and puts their energy into what matters. Next point please.

Discovery #3- A Good Coach encourages while also pointing out areas for improvement

A good coach is great at performing the ol’ Ken Blanchard staple of “catching people doing something right” while also pointing out how they can improve. It’s a delicate balance, but one of the most important principles for success in the fitness coaching industry (in my opinion). Now, Andrew has been great at encouraging me, praising my consistency & form regularly, but has pointed some things out that I never would have discovered on my own (not being one to video myself working out as I now have to so he can see what I’m doing). I learned my performing of an exercise as basic and run-of-the-mill as a one arm row could use some improvement. He pointed out a way for me to take my row from good to great. Thus, it displays a very important point. This is a game where you never outgrow the basics, you just get better at them.

The better you get at the basics, the better your results will be. A good coach can show that everyone can learn the basics and, no matter how fit or advanced, you can always get better at them. No need to complicate things. No need for advanced calculus. Get real excited and consistent doing basic addition and you’re set in this game.

Discovery #4 – Accountability Works

Depending on how you look at it, when it comes to my own training and results, being a fitness facility owner and living a good portion of my life in a gym can be a blessing or a curse. What I’ve found is that it matters when someone knows whether you’re working out or not. With an online coach, I get an email saying something along the lines of, “Yipee, it’s a workout day!” on the programmed days. That means it’s a workout day. Time for me to put in the work regardless of how I’m feeling that day. Time for me to face the music (or farmer’s carries). This helps take away a layer of excuses. It prevents your mind from saying, “Not feeling it? No problem you can just do it tomorrow!”.

With a coach and a plan, the day is today, plain and simple. I’ve got sets and reps to log. Videos to film and attach. Then after some sweat (and possibly my arms ceasing up, depending on the day) I get to hit the “Crushed It!” button. Boom baby. Check. Done. I’m an animal. This is especially motivating on the days I’m not feeling it. Even though fitness is my passion and livelihood and generally I look forward to my own workouts, these days still do come occasionally.

Having a coach and a plan is a great way to combat this energy. It helps you focus on something that could be the most pivotal mindset for one to have around fitness and the results they want to achieve. Which brings me to my last point.

Discovery #5- Focus on the process and you will have your desired result (if you’re patient)

Having a coach with a program and plan that is out of my hands, someone who knows whether I’m working out or not, someone who consistently communicates and makes little tweaks to the sets and reps, someone that is watching these videos I’m filming helps me focus on something that many lose sight of in their fitness journey. That is the process.

Too many are focused on the outcome. What they want to happen. The losing of the weight and looking exactly how they want in the mirror. The approving of themselves because they’re now fit. That sort of thing. Oh and did I mention that they also want it yesterday. Then they can stop with all this ridiculous, difficult, and time consuming stuff, go back to how they were living before, and finally be content with themselves for the rest of their life.

This is the road to despair that many fall victim to regardless of how good their intentions in the beginning. Have goals, yes, but don’t be consumed by the end result you’re trying to achieve. All who become enlightened in regards to their physical fitness do so by realizing that there is no “end”. They stop chasing the short term and see the bigger picture. They see that the process is where the magic is.

For me, especially now having a coach, here’s some examples of what that looks like. Getting one more rep this week. Choosing to do the hard thing and show up when I didn’t feel like it. Better planning my workout time so I can give my best effort. Loading the trap bar up and taking it to the other side of the facility and back. Logging my results. Hitting the button signifying that another workout is complete. Another step towards my goals has been taken (I’m trying to get more jacked). This is all part of the process. Each time further solidifying that this is my identity. This is who I am. This is my type of fun. Every video of me doing my last set of farmer’s carries or sled pushes, serves as a sign of revolt against the norm. A reminder that I can do hard things. A reminder that the basics will never be easy and I will never seek the easy route. I will ask my coach if that’s all he’s got even if it took me to the brink and I will dare him to add more weight or reps. I can do it. I’m unstoppable. This is the power of a good coach. And I hope you yourself get to experience it if you haven’t already. Your life will never be the same.

Shout out to my coach Andrew Coates, you’re the man.

Matt Mantai, Author

Matt Mantai

Matt has been consistently strength training for over 25 years and has been a fitness professional since 2011. ARMOURY Fitness & Performance represents all he has learned in the principles of strength training, coaching, and personal development over that time. He lives to see others transform by the power of strength training, and his passion only continues to grow with each passing day. He lives in Didsbury with his wife, Fayth, and two sons, Uriah & Ezrah.

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